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The Golden State Warriors recently hosted a joint community event with video game company EA to coincide with Warriors’ G-League affiliate Santa Cruz playing their only game of the year at Oracle Arena.

The three-hour event, which was held before the game against the Austin Spurs on Sunday, Jan. 28, brought in nearly 150 kids from several Oakland and East Bay community organizations to design and pitch ideas for video games to a panel of (fake) venture capital mavens.

Think of it as Silicon Valley meets Shark Tank with a gaggle of tweens.

The event was helmed and emceed by Laura Teclemariam, lead senior product manager at EA’s Mobile Studio. “Given that this is a sports and entertainment collaboration, I wanted to identify a project that would seek not just to speak to anyone who has a strong background in math or science or engineering, but that it could be applicable to all,” she says, emphasizing that STEM is not only hardcore math or engineering. “Especially when you’re focusing on the community, you want to make sure that the content is very inclusive.”

And inclusive it was, with the youth in attendance representing groups such as Black Girls Code, Girl Scouts and local basketball programs. Also in the house were kids from The Hidden Genius Project, an organization that had previously worked with the Warriors and President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative on an event called “Beyond Basketball,” and Gameheads, a local nonprofit that is building a pipeline into tech through the lens of video games for underprivileged youth and youth of color.

Golden State Warriors
Laura Teclemariam (left), and her team from EA. Photo: EA/Forbes

The children, who ranged in age from 7 to 13, were divided into groups and asked to develop a presentation for a video game based on three criteria: creativity, identifying and solving a problem, and overall presentation.

Pushed to come up with ideas “beyond their wildest dreams” by Teclemariam and her team, the students addressed issues as earnest as helping an Alzheimer’s patient remember details and as light as making it so you never miss a shot in basketball.

“I encouraged (the kids) to think beyond today, because we’re not building games for today, we’re building games for the future. We’re building games that we don’t even know we love yet.”

While there were no ‘winners,’ all the kids in attendance went home with Playstation or XBox video games, and other EA-branded merchandise.

“EA really supports (employees) giving back to the community,” says Teclemariam, who organized the event on behalf of EA’s African American employee resource center, or BEAT (Black at EA’s Team). BEAT operates based on five pillars: gaming, professional development, culture, community and recruiting; the Warriors STEM Night fell under the community pillar. According to Teclemariam, EA also matches employee contributions for charitable giving, and holds a yearly “Giving Month” to encourage employees to serve their communities.

The Warriors organization for its part was also heavily involved in making STEM Night a success. Representatives from the franchise’s e-sports team and analytics team joined Teclemariam on the panel of “VCs.”

Warriors Account Executive Tre Jenkins originated the idea for Warriors STEM Night after establishing the first Warriors African American Heritage Night last year. Informed by his background in tech recruiting, Jenkins planned STEM Night with an eye toward representing a diverse set of communities.

“(The event) was really just the start of something bigger,” says Jenkins, who touted the wave of diversity programs underway in the tech sector. Next year, he wants to expand the event to college students, and potentially link them to post-graduate job opportunities. Per Jenkins, more Silicon Valley companies are interested in coming on board in the future.

Golden State Warriors
Warriors STEM Night participants ideate on the floor of Oracle Arena. Photo: EA/Forbes

Teclemariam holds the Warriors’ ability to influence the youngest members of the community in high regard. “Since their hub is in Oakland and the East Bay,” she tells me, the Warriors “give inspiration and have access to the youth in that area. This event allowed us to tap into that youth base in this inner region.” Oakland, long the home of the Warriors, is known for its socioeconomic and racial diversity. It was important to both Teclemariam and Jenkins to have that hallmark represented on STEM Night.

All the youth who attended the event also received a ticket to the Santa Cruz Warriors game later that evening, as well as a special-edition Kevin Durant bobblehead.

Originally, the children were told they would be competing for a hypothetical “million-dollar” prize. After the contest (and after all the participants had received their EA swag), Teclemariam told the children that their $1 million was still out there, and they should put in the work to perfect their pitches for future opportunities.

The Warriors organization, whose managing partner Joe Lacob comes from the world of venture capital, was recently valued at $3.1 billion by Forbes. The team held its second annual African American Heritage Night on Feb. 8, coinciding with an NBA-wide celebration of Black History Month.

Aliko Carter is a contributor for the Forbes SportsMoney Blog, covering the NBA, sports biz and philanthropy. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise specified. Find Aliko on Twitter @kogitare.

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